22 September 2013

Vegas 70.3 2013 World Championships - Race Report!

A couple of weekends ago, I had the honor of competing in the 70.3 World Championships out in Las Vegas. After last year's race, I had no plans to go back. I even remember when I was running the half marathon in Poconos 70.3 last fall thinking to myself that if I got a rolldown slot, I would NOT be taking it. The only way I'd go back is if I got a spot by being in the top of my AG (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with rolldown, of course, but since I'd already raced a world championship through rolldown, I wanted my next opportunity to be though my very own slot - plus I did not like Vegas a ton and kind of wanted to minimize my chances of going back to that racecourse - ha!). The unexpected happened and I came in 2nd at Poconos 70.3 and claimed the second slot in my AG. I was going back. This time around, however, I had lots of friends and teammates doing the race too so that added to my excitement.

My training leading up to the race, not the most stellar. The past few years have shown that I am not great at focusing on quality training and race preparation in the six weeks or so post-Ironman. Every year I think will be the exception, but it never is. I just want to race and have fun and be lazy - basically have my cake and eat it too, enjoy the rewards of racing but without that kind of critical part known as training. The thing is, I know I do this, and I know it will run it's course, and I know that because I indulged my whims, I didn't have the race of my life in Vegas this year. I am also intimidated by the sheer level of competition out there - it is the best of the best. And while this year I felt like I belonged more so than I felt last year, this is still a huge mental hurdle I need to get over and I need to learn how to thrive in competitive environments and see them as opportunities for growth and progress, rather than pre-emptively writing myself off. None of these things are excuses - I completely own the lack of preparation, mental focus, and the subsequent race result. When I think back at it, I do feel twinges of regret. And it will probably be awhile before I am back racing at a world championship-level event because I need to learn how to better race at that level and give it the proper respect it deserves - otherwise, what is the point of spending the money just to do it? I refuse to be part of the generation where everyone is a winner and everyone gets a medal just for participating (ok, everyone did get a medal at this race, I know) and the end result doesn't really matter. After the race, I read Elizabeth Waterstraat's blog about the race - I saw her on the race course and she was laser-focused and HAULING on that run course. Reading her post made me want to do better for myself. Check it out - it is training and racing at its finest.

So Race Weekend! I arrived in town on Thursday, put my bike together in record time in my hotel room, picked up my packet, and made a beeline for Whole Foods by the Expo to pick up my bananas and bagels before the rest of the triathletes cleaned the place out (learned my lesson from last year). Later I met Kendra at the outdoor pool by the Expo to get a swim in. Unfortunately, they had closed the pool for thunderstorms (pinch me, weren't we in the desert?). But it gave me a chance to finally meet her dad Poppy Tony and her super nice mom. It was so great to chat with the people I've heard so much about through Kendra. So instead of swimming, I headed back to the hotel, cooked up a pasta dinner, and went to bed early. Friday AM brought a morning brick as well as triathlete-celebrity-gazing at the gorgeous outdoor pool (oh hi Leanda Cave, fancy seeing you at the pool!).

On the bridge overlooking the would-be Swim Start come Sunday in Fake Italy out in Lake Las Vegas.
That afternoon, Mr. Sweetie surprised me by showing up at my hotel, which was pretty much the best thing ever and instantly I was 10x more excited for the weekend, for the race, for everything in general. I didn't realize how much I wanted him there until he was standing there in the lobby. He was wonderful and took over all the mundane details - cooking me dinner, making me pancakes Saturday AM, helping me cook French Toast Cakes at Mike and Dawn's condo (THANK YOU Mike and Dawn for the use of your kitchen, you guys are lifesavers!), and driving me to T1 and T2 to drop off my bike and gear bags. After dropping off my bike, I ran into Bree Wee, a triathlete whose blog I have followed since 2007 when she won the amateur race at Kona. I've always admired her work ethic and positive outlook and though I felt like a complete goon just stopping her on the sidewalk when I saw her, to tell her how much I like her blog and wishing her good luck for Sunday, I hope she wasn't completely creeped out.

T1 after dropping my bike off
The weather on Saturday gave me hope that Sunday wouldn't be blazing hot - it was overcast and comfortably warm. I was sure to add to Jen's facebook feed of bonk photos Friday afternoon (think: the "planking" phenomenon triathlete-style).

Pre-emptive finish line bonk.
We went to Mass on Saturday evening where we were easily the youngest people there by a few decades. My parents don't call the Saturday evening Mass the blue-haired service for nothing (sorry Mom - busted!). We went to Mass the night before IMLP and it was one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend. Saturday night was early to bed - 8pm - and I slept like an absolute rock, getting close to 8 hours of deep sleep. I woke up race morning, sort of forgetting it was race morning, I felt so relaxed. I gathered my million waterbottles of Skratch Labs, made sure I had my morning clothes bag with my swim gear, and started choking down my morning bagels (WHY is it only race morning that I have to force down bagels - why can't this phenomenon happen on Bagel Fridays when suddenly 3 bagels doesn't seem like close to enough while sitting at my computer)? We headed out of the hotel where we were greeted by... Rain... Cool temperatures. Well this was new and unexpected. Maybe I wouldn't need to drink my weight in water and Skratch on the bike. On the ride out, I was convinced that it would be dry out at Lake Las Vegas. HAHAHAHA, no Transition was a mud pit and it was on the verge of being chilly, just goes to show you should be prepared for everything, including cold weather in a normally steaming hot desert. I put my nutrition and million waterbottles on my bike, tried to pump my tires with an unfamiliar pump before finally giving up and letting the Belgian owner of the pump do it for me, and then ran into all of my friends and teammates. We quickly decided to spend the 1+ hours of wait time in the shelter of the bridge in Fake Italy over the swim start. The end closest to the swim start looked and smelled like what I'd imagine the Carnival Cruise Ship disaster looked like - lots of standing water, stink from the portopotties, and people crowded together in a small space. We went to the other end of the bridge where there were real bathrooms (a fact apparently not well-broadcast given how few people were over there) and we watched the earlier swim waves go off before finally going and getting in line for our respective waves.

Kendra and I waiting for the swim start
The Swim - 37:13 (46th AG)
Basically the EXACT same swim time as last year. Practically to the second. Though, I felt much stronger on the swim course this year than I did last year, even finding myself a pair of fast feet to follow now and then. When the swim started, I stayed to the far left of the buoys in the hopes of taking the straightest line out to the turn. It wasn't a rough swim start at all, though there were a few times that I had to fight for feet (lost one of the fights and a good pair of feet, womp womp). The swim didn't feel slow, it actually felt like the buoys were passing by at a good clip. The water wasn't rough, though I did stray a bit off course (or took the less direct route) on the way back in trying to stay right on the buoys. I started to lose focus close to the end as I tried to discern which tunnel under the bridge we were supposed to go through. Got to the swim exit, looked at my watch, and was rather disappointed to see the exact same time as last year, though I had felt stronger in the water compared to last year. 

T1 - 4:40 (the mud pit)
Longest run into and out of transition ever. Also one of the muddiest. It was still raining and I thought about putting on my sunglasses for a hot second, until I noticed one of the lenses was missing. Well that decision was easy.

The Bike - 3:09:56 (86th AG)
Keeping the streak alive, I achieved the same bike time as last year. The route differed this year compared to last year, with an extra loop around Lake Las Vegas resort in the beginning before climbing out to Lake Mead recreational area, and the route in Henderson to T2 was a bit different than last year. I got on the bike and was riding conservatively right away, especially on the downhills in the rain with the testosterone-fueled train of men screaming by me on the left. Not my cup of tea, but fortunately we hit the climb out of the resort and things settled in. I was actually really happy it was rainy and cool - what an unexpected and nice surprise. I still planned to drink and take salts as though it was hot, because the rain could easily stop and the sun could come blazing out and I wanted to be prepared. I felt like I was biking SO SLOWLY on the way out to the turnaround. I'd catch a few people here and there, but mostly I was being passed by everyone and their mother. Maybe I was still in "Ironman ride conservatively" mindset, but whatever it was, it was not fast. The one thing I DID do right, though, was religiously eat every 15-20 minutes (French toast cakes, a Gu, a bike of a MoJo bar - I listened to what my body wanted) and drink every 10 minutes and take a salt tab every 20 minutes. Even though my bike time was the exact same as last year, I felt a million times more fueled and happy out there. I also didn't feel nearly as spent this time around - last year I finished the bike and felt like I had red-lined it all the way through the bike portion, so even though my times were the same, I felt substantially better this year and knew I'd be able to run off the bike. Biggest accomplishment, of course, was needing all five fingers to count how many times I peed on my bike. Downside - I think my bike shoes stink forever.

T2 - 2:16
No need to use the portojohns this time around. I also did NOT take my time, no point in delaying the inevitable.

The Run - 1:58:47 (84th in AG)

Even though the sun was out in full force by the time I reached T2, it was still much cooler than 2012 and I was going to do whatever I could to make sure this wasn't a death march. The run is three loops of just over 4 miles apiece, with basically two miles down and two miles up - nothing very steep, just relentlessly long. I quickly realized it was going to be one of those runs where you feel like you are working hard but the payoff is peanuts - you feel like you MUST be holding a sub-8 with all that effort and your watch beeps with an...8:44. And that first mile was downhill. Some days you have it, some days you do not. I didn't feel bad, like I had a nutrition fail or that I had overworked the bike, I just felt flat. I know alot of that was simply due to NOT putting in the level of training and level of intensity and focus that a race like this deserves and my run pace was reflecting that. The miles ended up passing by rather quickly, regardless of my pace and it was helpful that I saw alot of my friends every lap. Because it was hot, I was taking in water at every aid station. I wasn't really interested in taking a Gu so I had small bites of French Toast cakes every two miles and I'd pop a salt tab every lap. I started taking Coke towards the end of the run when the French toast cakes weren't appealing and I knew I still needed calories. I didn't have my average pace showing, but I'd catch a glimpse of each mile as my Garmin buzzed and the first two laps were OK and relatively consistent with sub-9s. But the third lap is where the wheels came off. There wasn't any walking involved, except for about 30 seconds at mile 12 when I suddenly felt really nauseous and tried to let it pass by slowing down. My legs were toast by the end of the race, even though my pace was slow, and I was so very happy to make the right turn at the end of the loop to go down the finisher chute. I crossed in 5:52:52, 84th in AG. 

Going into the race, I wanted to finish faster than I did last year. With the cooler temperatures and my plan to not overwork the bike, I felt like it would be doable. And while I was a good 17 minutes faster than last year's 6:09 because of my faster run and I felt stronger and more capable this time around, I still feel a bit dissatisfied. I know it was my slacking off in August post-IMLP that set me back and skipping workouts, eating poorly, and not being super disciplined and focused were all my choices and, as a result, this less-than-stellar outcome was my choice. You reap what you sow when it comes to training and racing and I basically neglected planting season and relied on Ironman fitness to carry me through, telling myself that will be good enough as I ignored my alarm for swim practice or skipped out on a brick run.
It wasn't. 
Post-race, Jen and I traded emails back and forth about the rest of my race season. After I come out of my 4-6 week post-Ironman slump, I am once again jazzed to race and train and this year isn't an exception. In the future I will need to plan my race season in such a way where there isn't anything important in that timeframe after an Ironman because I am a waste of space - it's my way to recharge. I think that's one of the reasons I always really liked the last season Ironmans that abut the holiday season - you race and then have 4-6 weeks of socially acceptable gluttony staring you in the face and, come January 1st, I am so ready to get back on the wagon. Having an Ironman at the end of July and then trying to race well in August and September is mentally harder than anything else in the whole season. After Worlds, when I told Jen I had already signed up for Beach2Battleship Half for my end of season race the last weekend in October, I was really glad when she told me that if I am going to do that race, I am GOING TO DO THE RACE RIGHT. Fully committed. Eat well, do all workouts, get enough sleep, go to bed at a reasonable time, NO MORE UNFOCUSED CRAP.
So that's what I'm doing because I don't want to finish another race and have regrets about my preparation, my choices, and the subsequent outcomes. I want to do this one right and the next one and the one after that and the one after that, etc.

Before I end this race report, I need to say a huge THANK YOU to my aunt Amy and Andrew and our neighbors Lindsay and Andrew who watched our animals for us so Mark could fly out and surprise me - thank you guys SO MUCH! You're the best! And congrats to all of my teammates and friends who had really great races themselves - thank you for all of your smiles and cheers on the course, they made my day!


B.o.B. said...

Congrats lady! I think you were more in shape and ready than you thought. :)

Caroline said...

Thanks Beth!! The race did go better than I thought and MUCH better than last year. I'm totally in awe of people who are doing sub-5 on that course - crazy! I hope your marathon training is going awesome!